Review: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

the-impostor-queen

The Impostor Queen

Series: The Impostor Queen #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 415

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

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I really enjoyed Elli as a main character. She was definitely a strong female heroine – however, not necessarily strong physically (which I definitely appreciated). What I loved most about her was her selflessness. Elli always put others first – whether it be the citizens of Kupari or the people she personally knows. Something I also admired about her was her determination. In the beginning, she was determined to be the best possible queen she could be in order to provide for her people. When she was unable to do that later on, she was still fighting to find her place in the world – she never wanted to be useless. I loved seeing these traits develop and grow throughout the novel and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Elli in the next book! Also, I would like to note how glad I am that Elli isn’t “The Chosen One” since that trope is so overly used. AND I’m excited to see a bisexual main lead in a YA fantasy novel. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book in this genre where the MC is anything but straight.

As for the main male lead, Oskar, I really loved him as well. He had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders – like providing for his mother and little sister after the tragic death of his father. He also had some magic-related concerns of his own that were causing him physical harm. However, even though so many things have gone wrong for him, he still keeps going on with life. Oskar never complains about his situation – he just makes the best of it. I really admired this about him.

Also, I have to note how much I enjoyed Elli and Oskar’s relationship. It was definitely a slow burn kind of romance, so you don’t have to worry about any insta-love! They started off on the right foot: Oskar brought Elli to get some medical attention after she has experienced a series of painful hardships. Even though Oskar literally saved Elli’s life, he never expected anything in return. He was always kind and understanding, even when he had no knowledge of where Elli came from or what she was doing in the outlands. To wrap it up, Oskar and Elli are so great together and I really hope they make it as a couple to the end!

The magic system and the world were two of my other favorite things about this book. In the novel, there are wielders who can produce ice or fire magic, or sometimes both. If someone can wield magic, they are sent to the temple to be trained by the priests. The Valita is the queen who has the most powerful magic. She has a perfect balance of ice and fire magic. Since the magic the Valtia has lasts much longer than the body it is in, the magic goes to a new person once the former has died. This new person is called the Saadella: a currently non-magical girl with copper colored hair, ice-blue eyes, and a special mark somewhere on her body. Elli was given to the priests at age four since she had all the markings for a Saadella. She has lived at the temple for the majority of her life, knowing one day she will have the Valtia’s powerful magic within her. I really loved learning more about how magic worked in this world as the book went on.

The only complaint I have about this book (and the reason why this isn’t quite a 5 star book) is that it started off really slow for me. I was initially very intrigued by the prologue but then it didn’t seem like a lot was happening for awhile. I believe it took me around 150 or 200 pages before I was 100% hooked. I’m hoping for more action straight from the get-go in the next book.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the characters, magic system, and world in this novel. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for a fantasy novel with fantastic characters and a unique way of dealing with magic.

4-5-stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting

the-taking

The Taking

Series: The Taking #1

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Mystery

Publication Date: April 29, 2014

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 357

Synopsis: A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

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As you can tell by my rating, this wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read. However, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read either. For a majority of the story, I was extremely intrigued. In the beginning, I had no idea where the author would be taking the story. Would it end up being a government conspiracy? Would there be aliens involved? Would it be something more realistic? Would it include all of the above? These are the questions that kept me going. If it wasn’t for this factor, I probably wouldn’t have been as interested.

As for the characters, I didn’t care for them at all. They were all so bland in my opinion. Kyra tended to get on my nerves, mostly with her obliviousness – one of the worst character traits ever. I also found it weird and unrealistic that Kyra could go from being totally in love with her boyfriend and planning their futures together one day to crushing on his younger brother, Tyler, the next. Even though five years has passed for everyone else, it has only been one day for Kyra. I understand if Austin (the boyfriend) has moved on since it had been a long time for him. But Kyra? She just jumps onto the next guy with hardly a second thought. The romance was unfortunately a huge part of this book. I think if Kimberly dialed it down a little – focused more on the plot than the relationship – I could have had a better reading experience.

Overall, I was intrigued by the story, but I wasn’t impressed in the long run. The ending made me want to know what would happen next, but not enough to actually pick up the second book.

2-5-stars

2.5 stars

Review: The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

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The Secrets We Keep

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 294

Synopsis: Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy’s shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she’s chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy’s world.

When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy’s death and everyone’s grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy’s life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister’s life.

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When I heard about this book a few months ago, the synopsis intrigued me so much that I immediately added it to my TBR and began the wait for it to be in stores. Shortly after it was published, I was lucky enough to win a copy of the book in a blog giveaway. It was a short and fast read, but it unfortunately left me disappointed in the end.

The Plot

The biggest problem I had with the book was that it was SO unrealistic. When I read the synopsis of this book, I was worried that this would be an issue. Unfortunately, it was. I honestly can’t see how Ella’s family didn’t know that it was her and not Maddy. I understand that they were grieving, but the twins were so different from one another, even though they were biologically the same. For example, throughout the book there was a huge emphasis on how different the twins were: different personalities, different styles, different groups of friends, etc. Therefore, how didn’t anyone figure it out right away?!

The Characters

I didn’t care for most of the characters in this novel. Especially our main character, Ella. She was extremely oblivious and idiotic (even though she was supposed to be the smart one!). She had it in her head that her parents loved Maddy more than her – even though it was obviously not true. Her parents are so overcome with grief due to the loss of who they think is Ella. You would think Ella would be like “Wow, they really do miss me!” but nope. She ignores this and keeps bringing up the fact that her parents were so happy that “Maddy” survived. She thinks that they’re glad that Maddy lived instead of Ella. The only reason they’re happy “Maddy” is alive is because it would be ten times worse if they had lost both of their children!!! It doesn’t mean they’re happy that “Ella” died!!

Josh (Ella’s best friend) really saved this book for me. He was pretty much the only character I actually liked. The main reason for this was because he was so real. In a book where everything was so unrealistic, he was a breath of fresh air. Other than Ella’s parents, I think Josh had the hardest time with what happened and he handled it in a very believable way. He’s the reason why I couldn’t give this book only 1 star.

Alex (Maddy’s boyfriend) was another character I didn’t really care for. I respected his love for Maddy and the way he was always protecting her. However, sometimes his protectiveness was a little too much. Also, he was another case of “How didn’t he know that Maddy was really Ella?” Alex dated Maddy for three years – Ella described them as being inseparable. Yet, when Ella starts pretending like she’s Maddy, Alex has no suspicions.

Overall

After anticipating this book for so long, I’m upset that it ended up disappointing me. However, I am willing to give Trisha Leaver’s other/future books a try because I did actually enjoy her writing.

2-stars

2 stars

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

i-was-here

I Was Here

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Pages: 270

Synopsis: Cody and Meg were inseparable. Two peas in a pod. Until . . . they weren’t anymore. When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

my-thoughts-2

Last year, I read and loved Gayle Forman’s two other books, If I Stay and Where She Went. Those books left me in a whirlwind of emotions and I truly connected to the characters. I think I may have even teared up while reading them (that doesn’t happen too often with me). However, I Was Here fell flat for me. This was quite a disappointment since I had been really looking forward to reading this novel for quite some time!

What drove me up the wall the most was the main character Cody. She was barely tolerable. In the beginning, I wanted to reach into the book and give her a good smack upside the head. She was absolutely oblivious to things that were literally right in front of her nose. Let’s not get into how she pretty much was slut shaming the main male lead, Ben. Not cool. As the book went on, I noticed how much I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I’m pretty sure I liked the kittens, Pete and Repeat, better than any of the humans. The only thing that kept me going was the mystery aspect. I wanted to know more about what led to Meg’s suicide.

Overall, this book wasn’t really for me. I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t love it either.

2-stars

2 stars

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publication Date: March 1, 2012

Publisher: Amulet Books

Pages: 295

Synopsis: Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

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I first heard of this book quite a long time ago. I never really knew what it was about; I only knew that some people loved it and others hated it. I didn’t give it another thought until April when the trailer for the movie was released. The trailer made the movie and, in turn, the book seem really funny and interesting. I added the book to my TBR and waited for a time when I was in the mood for a funny and quick read. That brings us to present time. Since I had just read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (which was a really heavy and emotional book), I decided I needed something to make me laugh before continuing on with another fantasy novel. So I went to my library, checked out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and started it later that night.

The book actually started out okay. I laughed at a few things and I liked the informal tone the author used. As it went on, however, I got more and more tired of it. I especially didn’t care for all the profanity. Normally, I don’t mind if there is a swear word here and there. In this book though, it seemed like every other word was something inappropriate. I know that some people probably would think the profanity adds to the humor, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

As for the characters, I didn’t like them either. Apart from Greg and Earl, no one else seemed to have any sort of personality. I didn’t connect with any of the characters. They were either annoying to me or I felt nothing towards them. I also found myself not caring what happened next – I was just trying to finish the book.

Overall, I think this book is really hit or miss; either you love it or you hate it. Unfortunately, I was part of the latter group. As for the movie, I might still watch it. I don’t see myself going to the movie theater on opening night or anything, but if becomes available on Netflix, I might give it a try.

1-star

1 star

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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An Ember in the Ashes

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 446

Synopsis: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

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This book has been so hyped up for the last couple of months that I’d be truly shocked if you’ve never heard of it. Sometimes when books are too hyped, it makes me not want to read them. This wasn’t the case for An Ember in the Ashes. As soon as I heard this book’s synopsis, I immediately put it on my TBR. It sounded so intriguing and different from other books I’ve read. I can tell you straight up that I wasn’t disappointed at all.

However, the book started off sort of slow for me. Since this pretty much was the only negative quality for me, I’m not complaining too much. In fantasy books, I need time to get accustomed to the world, the characters, and any new terminology that may be used. After I got more comfortable in understanding these things, I really got interested.

I ended up loving a majority of the characters in this book – apart from our villains of course. Laia and Elias were strong main characters. The way they interacted with one another was very realistic considering the world they live in. Also, I liked how the author didn’t push a huge romance angle on them right from the start. Sometimes in novels, one character will excuse every other negative quality the romantic interest has just because that person is attractive. I thought it was very refreshing that Laia didn’t do that. Laia was always taught that Masks weren’t to be trusted, so it took her a long time to trust Elias.

As for Helene, I didn’t think I would like her. However, even though she made some questionable choices, I ended up really feeling for her. She probably had it the hardest of any other students at Blackcliff Academy. She was the only girl so she constantly had to prove herself. She also had to deal with ignorant, pig-headed guys like Marcus who see her as someone who needs to be conquered. Helene did an excellent job at holding her own and I really respected her for that. As for Keenan, I didn’t completely love him, but I didn’t dislike him either. Like Laia, he has experienced so much pain and loss. He’s trying his best to move on and make some change. For some reason though, I just couldn’t truly connect to his character.

Whether it be having their eye cut out at age 5, being abandoned by their mother, losing their whole family, being enslaved for years and being tortured every day, etc, each character experienced some sort of tragedy. While the things that happened to them were horrible, I found that they helped me to connect emotionally to each character. Sabaa Tahir did a wonderful job of making her characters feel very authentic. She is such an excellent writer that she even made me feel a moment of sympathy for one of the book’s most horrible characters, Marcus.

Overall, I really loved this novel. The writing, characters, and plot were fantastic. I’m so glad there is a sequel because the ending was just not complete! I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Recommended to: Those who enjoyed The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

4-5-stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

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Maybe Someday

Series: Standalone

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publication Date: March 28, 2014

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 367

Synopsis: At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her—and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be.

Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.

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Note: This review was originally written January 4, 2015 and first published on Goodreads.

This was a book of firsts for me. The first New Adult novel I read, the first time reading Colleen Hoover, and the first time reading about a deaf protagonist. Let me just say, I’ve always been interested in the deaf culture, especially in the beautiful language of sign language. It’s something I really hope to be fluent in one day. So when I heard that this book featured someone who was deaf, I was sold.

I had been hearing for a long time how good Colleen Hoover’s novels were and I can’t say I disagree. Her writing drew me in and I absolutely flew through this book. However, there were some things I didn’t care for. For example, sometimes the characters got on my nerves a bit. Things also got repetitive at times and sometimes even dragged (even though I did read this book pretty fast). Even though that put a damper on things a bit, I still really enjoyed reading this book!

Now onto my absolute favorite part of this book: the music. Sure I’ve read books before that incorporated music as one of the main themes. However, I’ve never seen it done this well. If you didn’t know, the two main characters, Sydney and Ridge, write songs mostly together but sometimes apart. All of the songs that they write in the book, you can listen along to at this website!The lyrics are written out in the book once they have completed a song and then all you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen to the song and read along with the lyrics on the page. Now if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is! I really respect Colleen for doing it this way instead of just having lyrics and making the readers imagine what they would sound like. The songs made my reading experience so much better!

Overall, this book wasn’t absolutely perfect but I don’t regret reading it for a second. It opened my eyes to a new genre and a new author. It also made me appreciate things I take for granted. I definitely hope to read more by Colleen Hoover in the future!

4-stars

4 out of 5 stars